Heard from Clyde Hollis at Imperial. He has found five more Iron Mistress Bowies stashed back in his shelves somewhere, so they are available, if anyone here is interested.
A.G., you're being nasty, did you know that?
There is just so much legend involving Bowie and his knives that it is darned near impossible to separate the truth from the fiction at this pont. Or it seems that way to me. As I said earlier, I am very well aware that the Iron Mistress Bowie has no real historic value, bt it means a lot to me emotionally. A good frind gave me a DVD with four of the early "Adventures of James Bowie" shows on it and, damn, but it took me back to my childhood.
I really want to know which Bowie in the Smithsonian in the 1950s influenced the movie makers.
I like Schively by am really impressed by Searles. Have never seen a Black that impressed me at all, in fact am not at all sure that I have ever seen a genuine Black.
No meanness intended. A. G.
I apologize, A.G. I was trying to make a joke about the whole Bowie mythology and legend thing and I guess that it misfired.
The bowie is my favorite style of knife. I have always loved big knives and I just like the look and feel of a big bowie. I agree that what we consider a bowie today probably looks little like the original but it is still an impressive knife and cetainly one that got me interesting in collecting and making knives.
Gil Hibben was inspired to start making knives by the movie "Iron Mistress" and it has always been his favorite style. He makes several versions including the Iron Mistress, the Alamo Bowie and a coffin handled version.
Hibben Iron Mistress
Hibben Alamo Bowie
RHETT STIDHAM was nice enough to send me the following reply back in 2001 to my inquiry regarding the Randall Model 12 Smithsonian's history.
This article is from the number 4 Randall Knife Society newsletter written December 26, 1989. Bo Randall died on December 25, 1989. /// Rhett Stidham
THE RANDALL BOWIE
This article is yet another excerpt from Bob Gaddis's research of Bo Randall's files for his upcoming book on Randall Knives. Gary Randall recently found a large box of forgotten files that has delayed Bob's release of his manuscript to Peder Lund of Paladin Press, Denver, Colorado. We will not be seeing Bob's book on Randall Knives until some time in 1991.
During the first 10 or so years of his knife making Bo didn't make much of an effort to delve into the area of knife history, being fully occupied with making the best modern hunting and combat styles available. He freely admits that when Lt. Zacharias first came to him, in June of 1942, with his request for a bowie knife that he had only a vague idea of what a real bowie knife looked like. Little did he ever suspect that Randall Knives would go on to become the largest producer of handmade bowies in this country, offering seven different styles in their 50 year anniversary catalog.
What really got the bowie ball rolling in the Randall shop was the Warner Brothers motion picture "The Iron Mistress", starring Alan Ladd in the role of James Bowie. Bo saw the movie in the later part of 1952 and knew that he could shortly expect the arrival of numerous requests for similar large bowie knives. Since the end of World War II he had made a very few bowie knives on special order to the customers design, but none of them had been as large and massive as the one shown in the movie. The first thing he needed was a picture of this Iron Mistress so that he could get a good idea of its dimensions.
Within a day or two after viewing this movie, Bo contacted his good friend the theater manager there in Orlando with his request for a frame of the film showing the Iron Mistress. They took one from the sequence where the blacksmith, James Black, is demonstrating the knife for Jim Bowie, and Bo had the frame enlarged to about 5" by 7". From this picture he and Bill Platts were able to make a similar knife. The original enlargement of the motion picture film is presently on display at the Randall museum.
Bo Randall said, "No one ever asked me to make an exact copy of the Iron Mistress, but when the first inquiries for Bowie knives started arriving in January of 1953 I knew what the man most likely had in mind was one similar to that used by Alan Ladd".
A price quotation between $30 and $40 might have dampened the enthusiasm of some, but by late January a couple of firm orders were received. The first order on January 28th, 1953, was recorded simply as "1 Bowie Kn. at $39.40" with no other description. It is with the next order, noted in the records two days later, that we get a full description. This entry reads: "1 Bowie, 11 X 3/8 X 2-1/2, Brass Strip & Butt Cp." Expanding upon this abbreviated notation gives us an Iron Mistress style bowie with a blade 11 inches long of 3/8 inch Swedish tool steel with a width of 2-1/2 inches. A brass strip was to be welded down the back or top part of the blade. The butt cap was to be made from brass instead of the usual aluminum. The hilt and handle material not being mentioned, we know that they were the usual brass and leather, respectively.
The earliest known sketches and photos of Randall bowies show a version of the present lugged style hilt and commando shaped handle. We therefore believe that these very first knives were similarly equipped. This large bowie was quickly adopted as Randall's first standard bowie, and the options were: a brass strip on the back of the blade, a brass butt cap and a stag handle. You could also have finger grooves in the stag and a wrist thong was also available. No specific name was given to this or the next two bowie styles adopted, until January 1959. The new catalog which came out in May of 1954 simply listed this model as: "Bowie" -- 11 " blade, 2-1/2" wide, of 3/8" stock. It was a replica of the famous Bowie knife of a century ago, fitted with a 4-1/2" brass lugged hilt, 5" leather handle and Duralumin butt cap. (Wt. 32-36 oz.). Around the Randall shop it was referred to as the Model 12 Heavy. See the last page of this newsletter for a photo of an early Model 12 Heavy with ebony handles, brass strip and hand-cut scalloped collar and butt. Bo told me he made this one himself.
In the late 1950's correspondence with the Smithsonian Institute established that they had an authentic knife from the 1830's or 40's, which was very similar in size and style to this Randall bowie. This lead Bo to call it the "Smithsonian Bowie" when he gave all the Model 12 bowie knives names. These names were first used in the revised and expanded catalog released in January 1959.
Midway through 1957 Bo wrote to Alan Ladd, at Warner Brothers Studio. He had a couple of questions to pose, the major one being the actual dimensions of the Iron Mistress used in the movie. The reply came from Mr. Ladd himself and he provided the dimensions for the original movie bowie. Mr. Ladd stated that the original knife used in "The Iron Mistress" was made by studio technicians and was supposedly copied from the one at the Alamo. The dimensions provided were: Total length of knife -- 16 inches, blade -- 10-1/2 inches, handle -- 5 inches, width of blade -- 2-1/2 inches, blade thickness -- 3/8 inch, and guard between blade and handle -- 3-1/2 inches. These dimensions show that the Randall Model 12 Heavy, later named the Smithsonian, was very close in size as well as shape to the one used in "The Iron Mistress" motion picture. Bo and Bill did a super job, starting with only one frame of film from the movie.
About a month after Bo made the first Model 12 Heavy he designed a unique double hilt style handle for this knife. Bo felt that for such a blade heavy knife you needed that something extra to hang on to. The second hilt was for wrapping your index finger around, thus having a locked-in grip on the handle while the wide lugged hilt forward gave protection to the hand. A reproduction of the original sketch is shown below.
Remove the top of the second guard and shorten the handle a bit and you have the modern sub-hilt grip used on many fighting knives today.
The original is on brown wrapping paper and shows smudges from being used in the Randall shop. This was the later part of February 1953. The notes at the top of the sketch were added years later, with "1st RM Bowie" and "1952" not being totally correct. The blade was the same as the first Model 12 Heavy, which did not get made until late December 1952, but Bo's first double-hilt bowie wasn't recorded in the shop records until February 20, 1953. This was after making three regular Model 12 Heavies. This double-hilt bowie was noted as "Bowie, Special for WDR, Jr..", for advertising usage. This knife was sold later. What I would give to know where that knife is today.
Indeed, the double-hilt bowie was used for advertising, being shown in a small photo in an article that appeared in the April 1953 edition of the Florida Wildlife Magazine. Very few of these double-hilt bowies were made, with a couple being ordered shortly after the article in Florida Wildlife came out. This knife was also shown in the December 1953 edition of True Magazine. This one had a stag handle, nickel silver hilts and a white metal butt cap, which was most likely aluminum.
More on the early beginnings of Randall bowies in the next RKSA newsletter. //////// RHETT STIDHAM / BOB GADDIS
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Last edited by Bors; 01-09-2007 at 06:06 PM.
In the late 1950's correspondence with the Smithsonian Institute established that they had an authentic knife from the 1830's or 40's, which was very similar in size and style to this Randall bowie.
Anyone live near the Smithsonian?
I do, but I have never seen it on display. Please remembeer that any museum has infinitely more in its collection than it ever has on display.
I really like the Hibben knives a lot, and would buy both the Iron Mistress, AND the Alamo Bowie in an instant if I had that kinda money
Here It Is
The iron Mistress isnt just for show ya know
Last edited by jimbowie; 03-06-2007 at 08:13 PM.
Where is the best place to sell one of these? I have one that my father is wanting to sell, also have a Randall, and 1 more, I would have to look to see what it is when I get home.
Thanks for your time.
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The "Iron Mistress" bowie knife looks much better than bowie knives of the Civil War era. A good one, with balance, not only looks just great, but handles great. I have wanted one since 1952, or thereabouts, and now will finally get one, thanks to a great local knifemaker named George Tichbourne...............Hookermj
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